Sunday, 14 March 2010

What to do if you can't get to Leipzig

Leipzig, Germany is still on Standard Time. We're not. I'm sitting gazing blearily at the computer, adding five hours instead of six to the time, gauging what elder daughter is up to on her band trip. She's just come back from touring Mendelssohn's House and is now preparing to head out to the Leipsig Opera House to see La Traviata. Yeah. My seventeen-year-old daughter. The Sum 41 fan. Do you know where I got to go on my band trips? Williams Lake, that's where.
But you mustn't think that those of us left behind in Hades don't strive after music and culture. Last night, we took younger daughter to the Fifth Annual Show Tune Showdown. We've never been before, but this year they held it at Ottawa Little Theatre which is not far from where we live.

The event is a very successful fundraiser organized by "Tone Cluster" ("Quite a Queer Choir" -- their words, not mine). I entertained some interesting ideas during the evening about how one would join a gay/lesbian/transgendered choir. Would you need to furnish proof? Home videos? Then I read the programme and noticed that straight singers are included in the chorus. Maybe on a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" basis. I jest, of course...

Anyway the place was packed, largely, it seemed, with members of the Resident Fan Boy's church which, as I think I've mentioned, is the only Anglican church I've ever encountered with a Rainbow Section. We arrived in plenty of time and only managed to secure seats in the penultimate row.

The set-up is something like American/Canadian Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, or any of those other quasi-reality/audition/competition shows that I never watch. There were three teams of two men and two women, each representing a theatre group: Orpheus Musical Theatre Society (founded in 1906), representatives of Sheridan College's Music Theatre - Performance Programme (come all the way from Oakville, Ontario, just outside of Toronto), and the Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company, the one company we'd seen before. Each group had prepared four musical numbers, and had the opportunity to win the chance to perform songs on the spot for extra points.

The on-the-spot performances were, in a way, the most telling. One girl from the Sheridan group flubbed the end of "Tonight" from West Side Story and lost points, a pity because WSS songs are fiendishly difficult to sing and I think she accounted herself darn well. Another guy from the same company managed to diva his way through "Sweet Transvestite" from The Rocky Horror Show and achieved full points by ending in a split, made all the more remarkable by the fact he was a rather large man.

However, I was stunned by the on-the-spot performance of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" from Pal Joey by Shaun Toohey of the Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company. He got full marks and deserved every one of them.

The judging from the celebrity panel (Pierre Brault, a local actor who is especially well-known for the one-man theatrical pieces he writes and performs; Kathleen Petty, a CBC radio host, and Erica Peck, an impossibly young and quite successful singer and musical actress) was very kind. No one got lower than eight out of ten. And judging these performances would be no cake-walk. Orpheus's team had quite clever stage business and good, but not powerful, voices. Sheridan's group had the voices, but were a very young group still learning how to use their bodies. Zucchini Grotto were the most interesting. They never sang without mikes, and chose to minimize moving about and used no props, instead concentrating on numbers that are challenging and complex: "Rhythm of Life" from Sweet Charity and "What You Don't Know About Women" from City of Angels, for examples. They would have had my vote, but Sheridan, who manage to nab two of the on-the-spot showdowns, got enough bonus points to win.

Younger daughter loved it. The risqué humour sailed over her head, thank goodness ("The Internet is for Porn"? Crikey!), although I'm sure she was amused by the four-letter words flying about. She later called me on it when I swore upon missing the bus. ("Stop using that word, Mom!" Busted.) I think she was particularly enchanted by the audience sing-alongs, especially to "Oom-pah-pah" from Oliver. At home, while waiting for her late-night tub to be drawn, I found her grasping the programme in the living room, swaying and singing softly to herself.

I've found a YouTube video advertising this year's Showdown, but featuring a performance of Zucchini Grotto Theatre at a previous Showdown. This might give you an idea of the atmosphere of the evening and of the quality of singing from Zucchini Grotto. The performers are nearly the same, except this year they were joined by Kris Joseph whom we've seen twice before this season in The Pillowman, and in NAC English Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. (Gee, that guy is so talented, it's scary.)

The Resident Fan Boy is enthusiastically determined that we should go next year and snapped up a Tone Cluster teeshirt at intermission to add to his collection.
"Now, they'll really think you're gay at church," I teased him. Since I rarely attend, many members assume he's another single gay dad.
"You'll just have to come with me," he said.
"And be your beard?" Luckily, he thought that was very funny. Are they having this much fun in Leipzig? Don't answer that question.


Bob said...

Glad you enjoyed the show! It's a lot of fun putting it together every year.

Persephone said...

I imagine it's a helluva lot of work putting it together every year! Thanks for stopping by! Tell your gang that the Facebook promotions work; that's how I got wind of the show.